The best wireless earbuds to buy right now

It’s 2020, and by now, you’ve probably owned your first pair of true wireless earbuds. It’s not until you use them that you can truly appreciate the freedom that comes with shedding all cables. Even earbuds with a neckband (aka “neckbuds”), though they offer longer battery life, can snag on things and be uncomfortably yanked from your ears. True wireless earbuds, meanwhile, continue to make advances in sound quality, comfort, connection stability, and ease of use. Above all else, they’re inherently convenient and freeing — as long as you don’t lose them, anyway.

But a downside of these earbuds can be longevity. If you were an AirPods early adopter or got a pair of Galaxy Buds with your Samsung phone, they might not hold a charge like they used to, and you’re probably on the hunt for a replacement set. This feeling of disposability and planned obsolescence is frustrating, but from a product perspective, the benefits and disentanglement that come with true wireless earbuds still make them a worthwhile buy.

You’ll know you’ve found the right wireless earbuds when they can sit comfortably and securely in your ears for hours on end, sound like something worthy of their price, and last long enough (with case recharges) that you’ll only occasionally have to stress about charging them up with a cable.

Best wireless earbuds: Apple AirPods Pro

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Apple finally came up with a solution for the many people with ears that were never a good match for regular AirPods: spend more money. Thanks to their revamped in-ear design and silicone tips, the AirPods Pro can fit a wider assortment of people compared to the standard AirPods and are the best Apple-branded earbuds yet. And since they now seal in your ears, Apple also added a noise cancellation feature.

The AirPods Pro remain ideally suited for iPhone owners and, because the competition has gotten so good, they’re harder to recommend if you have an Android phone. Setting them up is child’s play: just open the case next to your phone and follow the prompts, after which they automatically sync with all of your Apple devices. Their noise-canceling powers are no match for over-ear headphones like the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 (or other recommended picks), but they’re competent at muting office chitchat and deadening the raucous sounds of the subway. Apple’s natural-sounding transparency mode does a fantastic job of piping in outside noise when you want to hear it.

You can expect a significant upgrade over previous AirPods in terms of sound quality, with the in-ear seal helping to amplify bass response for a clean, well-balanced listening experience. And the AirPods remain the best choice if you make a lot of voice calls on the go, with excellent microphone performance aided by the noise cancellation, which helps you hear the person you’re talking to more clearly.

But the AirPods Pro aren’t a flawless product; with 4.5 hours of battery life when noise cancellation is enabled, they won’t last through a cross-country flight. I still regularly take both earbuds out of the case only to find that audio is coming from just one of them. This can only be resolved by putting them back in the case and trying again. Despite three included sizes of ear tips, some people still can’t get a perfect fit and have come up with clever ways of adding memory foam to the mix. Separately, complaints have recently emerged about Apple’s noise cancellation taking a step down in effectiveness after firmware updates. Last, though they’re water and sweat resistant, the AirPods Pro aren’t quite as impervious to those elements as other fitness-focused earbuds on the market.

Best if you’ve got an Android phone: Jabra Elite 75t

Photo by Avery White / The Verge

The Jabra Elite 75t earbuds are a terrific sequel to the company’s well-reviewed 65t buds. Now featuring a smaller, lighter, and far more comfortable design, the new Jabras also extend battery life over their predecessors and make a leap in sound quality. They roundly outperform the AirPods Pro when it comes to bass (so much so that you’ll probably want to turn down the low end in Jabra’s app), and they last longer, too: up to 7.5 hours of continuous listening on a charge. The 75t earbuds lack active noise cancellation, which undoubtedly helps extend endurance, but they at least give you very decent noise isolation.

You can pair the 75t earbuds with two devices at once, seamlessly switching between music on your laptop or tablet and taking a call on your phone. There’s no noticeable mismatch between audio and video when watching Netflix, YouTube, or other apps. And though it takes some memorization, Jabra’s control scheme (just a single button on each earbud) works well once you’ve got it down and lets you adjust volume without grabbing your phone or asking a voice assistant to do it.

There’s a lot to like about Jabra’s latest earbuds, and they work equally well on both Android and iOS. If you’ve got an iPhone, I still think the AirPods Pro are a better match because they’re so interwoven into the software, but if you want rumbling bass, consider saving quite a few dollars and going with the Jabra Elite 75t.

Other contenders

With a bigger field than ever before, you’ve got plenty of other options if neither of our recommended picks are what you’re looking for. The Powerbeats Pro take many of the best attributes of AirPods and put them in a form factor that’s better suited for the gym or running; they also have vastly better battery life but lack the active noise cancelation and come in a chunky case. If you’re mainly looking for a pair of fitness buds, I like the Jaybird Vistas for that scenario, as they fit snugly and come in a wonderfully compact case.

Amazon’s Echo Buds are a terrific first effort from the company, offering good sound quality that’s made better by Bose’s noise reduction technology. Sony’s 1000XM3 earbuds outperform the AirPods Pro at noise cancellation, but they lack any official rating for water or sweat resistance. And if you can’t bring yourself to spend $150 or more on earbuds, Anker’s Soundcore products continue to impress at a price point that’s easier to stomach. There are more picks to come this year, with new Pixel Buds from Google, Surface Buds from Microsoft, and new wireless earbuds from Bose all on the way in 2020.

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Sonos CEO apologizes for confusion, says legacy products will work ‘as long as possible’

Sonos CEO Patrick Spence just published a statement on the company’s website to try to clear up an announcement made earlier this week: on Tuesday, Sonos announced that it will cease delivering software updates and new features to its oldest products in May. The company said those devices should continue functioning properly in the near term, but it wasn’t enough to prevent an uproar from longtime customers, with many blasting Sonos for what they perceive as planned obsolescence. That frustration is what Spence is responding to today. “We heard you,” is how Spence begins the letter to customers. “We did not get this right from the start.”

Spence apologizes for any confusion and reiterates that the so-called legacy products will “continue to work as they do today.” Legacy products include the original Sonos Play:5, Zone Players, and Connect / Connect:Amp devices manufactured between 2011 and 2015.

“Many of you have invested heavily in your Sonos systems, and we intend to honor that investment for as long as possible.” Similarly, Spence pledges that Sonos will deliver bug fixes and security patches to legacy products “for as long as possible” — without any hard timeline. Most interesting, he says “if we run into something core to the experience that can’t be addressed, we’ll work to offer an alternative solution and let you know about any changes you’ll see in your experience.”

The letter from Sonos’ CEO doesn’t retract anything that the company announced earlier this week; Spence is just trying to be as clear as possible about what’s happening come May. Sonos has insisted that these products, some of which are a decade old, have been taken to their technological limits.

Spence again confirms that Sonos is planning a way for customers to fork any legacy devices they might own off of their main Sonos system with more modern speakers. (Sonos architected its system so that all devices share the same software. Once one product is no longer eligible for updates, the whole setup stops receiving them. This workaround is designed to avoid that problem.)

“I hope that you’ll forgive our misstep, and let us earn back your trust,” Spence concludes. “Without you, Sonos wouldn’t exist and we’ll work harder than ever to earn your loyalty every single day.” His entire statement follows below:

We heard you. We did not get this right from the start. My apologies for that and I wanted to personally assure you of the path forward:

First, rest assured that come May, when we end new software updates for our legacy products, they will continue to work as they do today. We are not bricking them, we are not forcing them into obsolescence, and we are not taking anything away. Many of you have invested heavily in your Sonos systems, and we intend to honor that investment for as long as possible. While legacy Sonos products won’t get new software features, we pledge to keep them updated with bug fixes and security patches for as long as possible. If we run into something core to the experience that can’t be addressed, we’ll work to offer an alternative solution and let you know about any changes you’ll see in your experience.

Secondly, we heard you on the issue of legacy products and modern products not being able to coexist in your home. We are working on a way to split your system so that modern products work together and get the latest features, while legacy products work together and remain in their current state. We’re finalizing details on this plan and will share more in the coming weeks.

While we have a lot of great products and features in the pipeline, we want our customers to upgrade to our latest and greatest products when they’re excited by what the new products offer, not because they feel forced to do so. That’s the intent of the trade up program we launched for our loyal customers.

Thank you for being a Sonos customer. Thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback. I hope that you’ll forgive our misstep, and let us earn back your trust. Without you, Sonos wouldn’t exist and we’ll work harder than ever to earn your loyalty every single day.

If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Amazon Music passes 55 million customers as it chips away at Spotify and Apple Music

Amazon Music often doesn’t get the same buzz as Spotify or Apple Music, but the service is still growing rapidly and is catching up to those competitors at a rate that might surprise you. Amazon says its music service has now surpassed 55 million customers.

There’s still a long way to go if Amazon wants to catch Spotify, which most recently reported 113 million paying customers (and 248 million monthly users overall) back in September. Apple last cited an Apple Music subscriber count of over 60 million, so Amazon is quickly chipping away at that lead. “Amazon doesn’t talk numbers that much,” Amazon Music boss Steve Boom told the Financial Times. “We felt like getting to this level of scale was something worth talking about.”

That’s in large part because Amazon Music has one big factor in its favor: versatility. There are multiple rungs that make up Amazon Music, and the service gets to ride on the enormous popularity of Amazon’s Prime membership, which has become essential for many people. It’s also tightly integrated into the company’s Alexa voice assistant. Let’s take a look at the handful of choices you’ve got, from most expensive on down to free (with ads).

  • Amazon Music HD: The step-up audiophile upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited launched last fall for $14.99 monthly ($12.99 if you’ve got Prime)
  • Amazon Music Unlimited: This is the true, proper Spotify and Apple Music rival and starts at the same $9.99-per-month price (or $7.99 for Prime subscribers). Amazon Music Unlimited subscriptions grew by over 50 percent in 2019, according to the company.
  • Amazon Music Unlimited (single-device plan): Maybe you lead a life of simplicity and only want to listen to music on the Amazon Echo in your living room. One of the more novel plans offered by Amazon is the single-device subscription, which can be used on supported Echo and Fire TV devices for only $3.99 each month. You still get the same 50 million song selection as regular Unlimited customers, but you’re just (very) restricted on where you can listen to them.
  • Amazon Music for Prime subscribers: Amazon Prime customers get on-demand, ad-free access to over 2 million songs through the Amazon Music service. There’s no added fee or subscription for this, apart from the regular Prime membership. It’s a nice perk if you’re not a picky listener and just want something without ads.
  • Ad-sponsored Amazon Music: If you’re not a Prime person and don’t want to pay for music, Amazon still has something for you. The free, ad-supported tier of Amazon Music gives you access to top playlists and thousands of music stations; you just lose the convenience of listening to any song you want on demand.

That’s five tiers, right there. And to reach its 55 million number, Amazon is tallying up the customers on all of them. International growth also appears to be strong. From Amazon’s news release:

Amazon Music has grown nearly 50% year-over-year across the US, UK, Germany, and Japan, and has more than doubled in our newer countries such as France, Italy, Spain, and Mexico.

Most of Amazon’s competitors have, at most, two plan options: free and paid. But as usual, Amazon is flooding the zone and hoping it can draw in every kind of music listener.

Google is giving free $130 Stadia gaming kits to new Verizon Fios subscribers

Google has found its first major partner to help push the company’s nascent Stadia game streaming service in the United States: Verizon. Tonight the companies announced that new Verizon Fios customers who sign up for the Gigabit plan will get a Stadia Premiere Edition and a three-month Stadia Pro subscription. They’ll also receiver a Stadia controller and a Chromecast Ultra for using the service on a TV.

The deal kicks off on January 29th. Once the three months are up, you’ll start getting charged Stadia’s normal $9.99/month subscription, but the gadgets are yours to keep. The Stadia Premiere Edition usually goes for $130.

Fios gigabit packages start at $79.99 per month, and the company recently unveiled a new “mix and match” approach to internet service that lets customers opt for a bundle of Fios internet and TV — or just the former combined with a streaming TV service like YouTube TV. Verizon and Google have already partnered up on that front, giving Fios customers a free month of the subscription TV service / cable alternative.

If Stadia is going to credibly challenge game consoles, Google will need more deals like this that bring the service greater exposure. Verizon says it’ll have additional Stadia promos for 5G Home customers, and also notes that the Stadia offer can be stacked with the free year of Disney+ that is also being gifted to Fios subscribers. Definitely check out Verizon’s news release for all the fine print, however.

AirPods Pro owners complain of worse noise cancellation after firmware updates

Some AirPods Pro owners have been complaining about degraded noise cancellation in recent weeks, claiming that Apple’s latest earbuds suddenly got less effective at silencing ambient noise after receiving a firmware update. Rtings.com retested the AirPods Pro and found their noise canceling capabilities to be worse after firmware update 2C54. But affected customers say the trouble began even earlier with firmware version 2B588, which rolled out in November. (Apple later pulled firmware 2C54 for unknown reasons.)

This phenomenon — the perception that a software update has “ruined” noise cancellation — has also been reported by owners of Bose and Sony headphones. Bose has faced a months-long controversy over its QuietComfort 35 II headphones, with some customers insisting that an update drastically worsened the level of noise cancellation from the cans compared to their original out-of-the-box performance. There are a lot of people who say they’ve experienced this issue, and it’s escalated to the point where Bose is now visiting customers at home to get a handle on whatever’s going on. Sony also dealt with similar complaints about its 1000XM3 headphones.

Are companies really screwing up this badly, or are customers imagining a problem where one doesn’t exist? The Rtings tests suggest something changed; the site found that Apple has also been slightly tweaking the sound profile of the AirPods Pro with these updates. A few editors at The Verge think they’ve noticed a difference, and others haven’t, but that’s by no means scientific.

Since the original AirPods, Apple has chosen to make the firmware update process completely invisible to customers. The entire process happens in the background without so much as a single notification. You can’t reject AirPods software updates, nor is there any direct way to force the update process on demand; you plug a charging cable into your AirPods case, put them near your iPhone, and wait. Once a firmware update is installed, you’ll notice the new version in settings.

(To check, open Settings, then pick General, then About. Whenever your AirPods are connected to your iPhone or iPad, you’ll see a section for them beneath the “EID” row.)

This everything-happens-in-the-background approach means there’s no way to downgrade or revert an AirPods Pro update back to a previous one if you encounter a problem. Some AirPods Pro owners are convinced noise cancellation took a downturn right after that first 2B588 update, and they were left without any method of going back.

Unlike other earbud makers including Sony and even Amazon, Apple doesn’t let you adjust the intensity of noise cancellation from the settings menu. The AirPods Pro are designed to dynamically adjust how much noise cancellation is applied on the fly based on your environment.

But to the end user, the feature is either on or off, and that’s not what I’d call ideal. Some people always want the maximum amount — especially on a plane or during a noisy commute — but others can feel a slight discomfort from the noise cancellation technology (or in some cases even get a little dizzy) when it’s fully cranked up.

It’s possible that Apple decided to turn the maximum noise canceling knob down ever so slightly without telling anyone to avoid any ill effects, but I really hope not. Letting customers choose from multiple levels of noise cancellation would make the AirPods Pro a hair more complicated to use, but might solve this situation for everyone. People who want their cocoon of silence (and have no issues when noise cancellation is dialed up to 11) can have it, and everyone else can find whatever level offers the best balance of comfort and NC.

The Verge has reached out to Apple for comment on the situation, and I’ll update this story should the company respond.

Facebook backs off plan to plaster ads all over WhatsApp

Facebook is “backing away” from earlier plans to sell ads for placement inside its enormously popular WhatsApp messaging service. According to The Wall Street Journal, the team that had been working on building ads into WhatsApp was disbanded in recent months, with their work subsequently “deleted from WhatsApp’s code.”

The Journal notes that Facebook still ultimately aims to integrate ads into WhatsApp’s Status feature, but for now, the app will remain ad-free. The company’s desire to monetize WhatsApp, which it acquired for $22 billion in 2014, is part of what drove WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum out of Facebook in 2018. His fellow co-founder Brian Acton left months earlier (over similar clashes related to privacy and targeted advertising) and has been a vocal critic of Facebook’s unchecked power since his departure.

The advertising setback has led Facebook to instead focus on WhatsApp features that will “allow businesses to communicate with customers and organize those contacts.” Koum and Acton were reportedly concerned that a commercial messaging feature would force WhatsApp to weaken its end-to-end encryption.

But this was all before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced plans last year to gradually shift away from public posts in favor of a unified, encrypted messaging system across Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. As the company is now discovering, bringing ads to an encrypted service comes with challenges.

Jabra Elite 75t earbuds review: the best AirPods alternative

Jabra’s Elite 65t earbuds have been a worthy rival to Apple’s original AirPods and the go-to alternative for people with an Android phone or whose ears didn’t accommodate the one-size-fits-most AirPod design ever since their release. But Jabra took a long time delivering a follow-up, and in that time, we’ve seen pretty much every consumer tech company take a swing (or two) at true wireless earbuds.

Now, Jabra has finally delivered an update in the $179.99 Elite 75t earbuds. With a new design, better battery life, and noticeably improved sound quality, there’s a lot to like about them. Even against a bigger field of competitors than ever before, the company stands out for getting so many things right.

Jabra managed to shrink the earbuds by 20 percent and came up with a design that’s both more subtle and more comfortable than the 65t. The previous earbuds were chunkier and had an awkward fit in some ears that caused discomfort over time, but I’ve experienced none of that with the 75t. The microphone stem has also decreased in size and no longer juts out as far from the earbuds. But this doesn’t hinder voice call quality, which remains second only to the AirPods. Everyone I spoke to could hear me loud and clear.

Overall, these earbuds look sleeker and more refined than Jabra’s previous efforts and should appeal to more people. They stayed snuggly in my ears through several workouts, despite lacking any ear hooks or wingtips as a secondary measure for keeping them in. Aside from making them smaller, Jabra also cut down on the weight of the 75t earbuds so there’s less risk of them coming loose and tumbling out of your ear canal. The earbuds are IP55 water and sweat resistant; if you’re explicitly looking for a gym or workout set of buds, it might be worth looking at the new Active version, which is fully waterproof with an IP57 rating and can survive submersion in up to 1 meter (3.28 feet) of water.

Photo by Avery White / The Verge

Despite the reduction in size, Jabra has increased battery life significantly. The company promises up to 7.5 hours of continuous audio playback, and 28 hours of total running time if you count the extra charges from the case. That’s notably longer than either the AirPods or AirPods Pro and enough to get you through a coast-to-coast flight, even if my testing came closer to around 6.5 hours.

Jabra has improved the carrying case in a few convenient ways: it’s easier to open one-handed — the annoying latch is gone — and there’s now a USB-C port instead of Micro USB. The case lid closes magnetically, and the buds themselves are also firmly seated with magnets. You can shake the case all about or even knock it against your other hand, and the earbuds won’t fall out. The one big miss is wireless charging, which is something you can get from the AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds, in addition to also less expensive options like the Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Airs. Jabra has suggested a wireless charging case is coming, but it has yet to specify when.

Another thing Jabra has omitted from these earbuds is active noise cancellation. If you can get a good seal with one of the included sets of ear tips, the 75t does a nice job of noise isolation and quieting down your surroundings. But they can’t put you in a private bubble with your music or podcasts quite like the AirPods Pro or Amazon Echo Buds, not to mention what over-ear headphones like Bose or Sony offer.

Like its competitors, Jabra includes a way to pipe in outside audio for situations where you need awareness of what’s happening around you. A press of the left earbud’s physical button activates HearThrough mode. With the AirPods Pro, transparency mode can make it feel like there’s a soundtrack playing in the background of your life in that moment; it’s almost like you’re not wearing earbuds at all. But HearThrough on the 75s sounds slightly less natural, so you lose that effect. If you need to have a short conversation or hear an announcement, it still does the trick just fine. And you can customize just how much passthrough audio comes through, cranking it up or dialing it down to your liking with the Jabra Sound+ smartphone app. But it’s not likely something you’ll keep on all the time.

On each earbud is a single round button that’s easy to find and doesn’t take much force to press. But Jabra has crammed a lot of functionality into those two buttons, and it’s easy to get mixed up on what each one does. I appreciate the flexibility and will always prefer buttons to having a voice assistant handle tasks like adjusting volume, but the system takes some memorization.

Right earbud:

  • Press once: play / pause music or answer / end a call.
  • Double press: activate Siri, Google Assistant, or Alexa or reject a call
  • Press and hold: volume up

Left earbud:

  • Press once: enable or disable HearThrough mode (or mute mic when on a call)
  • Double press: next track (or enable sidetone — the ability to hear your own voice — when on a call)
  • Triple press: previous track
  • Press and hold: volume down

One strength of the 75t earbuds is that they can be paired to two devices simultaneously, so you can have them connected to both your PC and phone in case a call comes in. This luxury is fairly common with standard Bluetooth wireless headphones, but it’s still something of a rarity for true wireless earbuds.

Photo by Avery White / The Verge

Jabra has made impressive strides in audio quality with the Elite 75t. Like their predecessors, they’re limited to SBC and AAC codec support, but they have a warm, crisp, and detailed sound signature. No one’s going to call these neutral, however; bass gets such a boost that I found myself toning down some of the boom in the Jabra app EQ menu. Bombastic is definitely the word for the out-of-box low end you’ll get from these. Compared to their 65t predecessors, the 75t have a more pleasing, nuanced sound with excellent instrument separation, and it’s easy enough to keep the bass in check. The Jabra app lets you save different EQ preferences for general listening, commuting, and so on, so the earbuds can adapt to pretty much any setting.

As for reliability, I experienced virtually no signal dropouts or unexpected behavior in my time testing three separate pairs of the 75t earbuds. Jabra has promised updates in the second quarter of this year, including a feature that will personalize the sound profile to your own hearing. This idea has proven somewhat gimmicky in the past, but Jabra says it’s borrowing technology and expertise from sister company GN Hearing — a maker of actual hearing aids — so we’ll see. Also in the second quarter, you’ll be able to use either the left or right earbud in mono mode; right now, only the right one can work independently.

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

If you’re not interested in Apple’s AirPods Pro or the similarly expensive Powerbeats Pro, the Jabra Elite 75t earbuds are yet again slotting in as the default alternate pick. There are other options, but none with the same number of upsides. The Jaybird Vistas cost about the same and come in a wonderfully compact carrying case, but they don’t sound as good. Amazon’s Echo Buds are cheaper and have Bose’s noise reduction technology, but they can’t pair with two gadgets at the same time. The competition is only going to grow fiercer over the next few months, so Jabra will have a harder time staying at the top of the pile, but aside from adding active noise cancellation and wireless charging, it doesn’t have much higher to climb.

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Leaked photos confirm Samsung’s next flagship phone is called the Galaxy S20

There will be no Samsung Galaxy S11. Instead, Samsung is jumping ahead to the S20. Rumors had been swirling about the branding change in recent weeks, and today XDA Developers published the first real-world shots of the Galaxy S20 Plus.

The phone’s startup screen confirms the new name; maybe Samsung is naming by year now. And we also see that the front of the device has a center hole-punch cutout that’s similar to the selfie shooter from the Galaxy Note 10. Samsung has significantly toned down the curved sides of the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus, with XDA’s source saying that the S20 Plus feels largely flat in hand.

On the back, we get a look at Samsung’s large camera array for the S20 Plus, which is rumored to contain a regular wide lens, an ultra-wide, portrait, and a macro lens as the new, fourth option. On back is also one of the more optimistic, hopeful confidentiality stickers I’ve ever seen: it actually just flat out says “do not leak info.” So much for that.

Samsung will unveil an entire line of Galaxy S20 devices at its Unpacked event on February 11th, including multiple screen sizes and some models with 5G connectivity. The company’s next foldable phone, perhaps called the Galaxy Bloom, is also expected to debut next month.

Amazon’s hardware boss responds to Sonos accusations of stolen technology

Yesterday morning, The New York Times broke the news that Sonos is suing Google. Under the belief that Google stole its technology and has slowly been trying to “squeeze” Sonos’ business with its own lineup of less expensive smart speakers, the Times reported that Sonos CEO “couldn’t take it anymore” and made the call to square off against Google in court. Sonos is even bringing its case to the US International Trade Commission, which could throw a serious wrench into Google’s device sales.

But Sonos made similar claims against Amazon in the same Times article — despite not including the company in the lawsuit. Litigating against two tech giants could stretch Sonos too thin, the company’s executives said, so they’re focused only on the battle with Google at the moment.

All of the same accusations were lobbed at Amazon, however. Beyond abusing their power and stealing Sonos technology, Sonos has framed both companies as essentially acting like bullies when it comes to their respective voice assistants. Google has demanded details on Sonos’ upcoming products months in advance. And the Times reported that Dave Limp, Amazon’s devices and services chief, nearly pulled out of the Sonos One launch event in 2017 when he heard that Google would also get some attention onstage.

The very public criticisms from Sonos have put Amazon in an awkward spot. For now, this is not the company’s fight. But Amazon will inevitably be next in line if Sonos finds success against Google, so it’s already defending itself against the idea that its Echo hardware infringes on Sonos’ intellectual property. Last night at an Amazon media gathering, I spoke to Limp about this new crack in the company’s relationship with Sonos.

You read The New York Times story this morning. Sonos said “We’re suing Google and we’d sue Amazon, too, if we had the resources to do it. They’re stealing our technology and trying to squeeze us out of business.” What was your first reaction?

Sonos is a big partner of ours. We’ve been doing business with them for a long time, we’ve been selling Sonos products for a long time. When John [MacFarlane] was CEO, and now Patrick [Spence], we’ve been working with them night and day to do our integration with Alexa and put a large number of resources on it. From my standpoint, I feel good about the partnership.

I’m not going to comment on discussions we might have privately with any partner, including Sonos. But I would say that our job is to make partners successful. And if you called Patrick right now, I would hope he would tell you that our partnership is healthy. That’s what I believe it is. So what the story may have said and how I feel about the partnership, I think, diverge somewhat.

You’ve got this new consortium of companies working together now on voice assistants. Is that partly because Sonos was getting upset over the situation and you knew these complaints were coming?

I think, if you went and looked at The New York Times story now, you’ll see that there’s been an update. I was in the first meeting with Sonos. I’ve known John for a long time. This is many years ago. Our strategy for assistants has never wavered. We believe that customers should have choice of voice assistants. Technically, how we want to enable that has changed. We’ve gone from cloud integrations with Cortana to multiple wake words. We’ve done multiple things, but the core strategy: that customers should have choice of voice assistants…

And so, we would never ask any company for exclusivity. It’s just not in our DNA. We may end up having exclusivity because it’s the right business arrangement, but we wouldn’t require it. It’s not what we want. We want customers to choose. We should win on our merits. A customer should choose Alexa because they love Alexa, and if they want to choose another voice assistant, that’s their choice. Similar to how they deal with a browser. We have to earn a customer’s trust every day for shopping. They can type in Walmart instead of Amazon. We want them to come back because we deliver on our promise very well. And so I think that story was incorrect, it’s been corrected, and I stand by what we’ve done from day one.

Editor’s note: The update cited by Limp is a line that The New York Times later added to the original story, saying “Amazon said it had never asked Sonos to force users to choose its assistant or Google’s version.”

There’s choice and then there are multiple assistants working simultaneously on the same device. From the lawsuit, it sounds like Google remains very much against this idea. What’s Amazon’s take?

We’ve sort of put our money where our mouth is. We’ve come out with a voice initiative, and with a lot of partners, and we’ve said we’re going to build technical solutions to allow multiple assistants — including in the right business case on our own devices, we’ve announced that with Orange in France. As it relates to somebody like Google, who didn’t join that, it’s a better question for them. Why don’t they want to do it? I don’t know. That’s up for them to decide, but we think in the near term, and we’ve proven it out with multiple products — you see it on Facebook Portal, you see it on the new Xiaomi Note 8 in India — that customers do find multiple wake words to be something they like.

Sonos says larger companies make it harder for midsized companies to truly take off because they undercut on price and wield far greater market power. How do you feel about that?

I think the fundamental issue is, all of us — Sonos, Amazon, anybody else — we have to differentiate our products. Some things will be complementary, and some things we’ll compete on. That’s great. It’s good for customers. It forms a great economy. From our standpoint, you have to find the ways that you can differentiate. By the way, I have a good source of Echo devices. I know a guy. And I still have, I think, a dozen Sonos products because I love their products. I think they’re great. And they’re integrated into my system. And when they came to us a couple years ago… John wrote a blog and said “speech is the future.” By the way, he was very prescient. And when he said that, the first thing I said was let’s throw resources and do an integration with them. And that allowed them to differentiate with very high-performing, great speakers with a great brand.

As long as they and others continue to differentiate, customers will find them. It’s not about, at any given time, a price point or a set of features. It’s about how do you define your brand and what your brand stands for and how it’s differentiated. And I’m very optimistic that Sonos can navigate that path.

Are you confident you’re not infringing Sonos technology?

I’m confident that we did not infringe on their IP. We built our solutions from a clean sheet of paper. We were the first person out with a connected, voice-enabled speaker. And that was done from a clean sheet of paper. So I’m as confident as I can be.

Update 2:42PM ET January 8th: The article has been updated to clarify the change made to the original New York Times story that was referenced by Dave Limp.

Samsung’s Odyssey G9 is the most extreme ultrawide gaming monitor

Samsung’s Odyssey G9 gaming monitor is an incredible thing to behold in person. It’s on the show floor at CES 2020, and pretty much everyone who sat in front of the 49-inch 1440p display was dazzled.

You’re going to have an impossible challenge trying to find a rig that can push the latest PC games at 240Hz. But if you’re a competitive e-sports player who specializes in older titles, this display could be a dream. Those not running it at 240Hz can still take advantage of its sharp resolution and that immersive 1000R curvature that pretty much envelops your whole field of vision.

The back is very sci-fi, with a clear cutout in the center that reveals a round LED that shifts colors. It looks like Iron Man’s arc reactor. Does anyone need that in a monitor? Nope. Does it look cool, especially for the crowd the G9 is marketed toward? Oh, most definitely.

Listening to the crowd of onlookers here in Las Vegas, I heard some confess that the Odyssey G9 is too much monitor for them and that they’d have a hard time following along with everything happening on-screen in Fortnite. To me, there’s really no such thing as too much monitor. Give me two of these things side by side. Surround me with like five or six of them, even.

With a 1ms response time and support for both AMD FreeSync 2 and Nvidia’s G-Sync, the G9 is likely to come with a very hefty price tag when it ships later this year. It’s easy to quibble over whether it’s worth the cost compared to other ultrawide or 1440p monitors on the market.

Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge